Statewatch News Online: Shannon used as kidnap operation stop-over - two men abducted from Sweden to Egypt

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Update: Sweden: Expulsions carried out by US agents, men tortured in Egypt

- second Swedish TV4 transcript with more details on the US abduction
- Shannon airport on west of Ireland used as stop-over for US plane (from Village magazine)

In May Statewatch carried a story based on a Swedish television documentary by TV4 - "The broken promise", broadcast on 17 May 2004 showed that the expulsion of two Egyptian men to Egypt on 18 December 2001 carried out by hooded US agents. The plane booked by the Swedish Security Police (SÄPO) was cancelled when another plane - N379P - a "Gulfstream" executive jet supplied by a firm on the east coast of the USA which works exclusively for the the US Defence Department. The Swedish Migration Board had decided that both needed protection and granted them asylum. The TV programme gave evidence of how the two men were tortured in Egypt. See: Expulsions carried out by US agents and full-transcript of "The broken promise", TV4, Monday 17 May 2004: Transcript (pdf).

A second documentary by TV4, "Broken promise - Part Two", was broadcast on 24 May 2004: Transcript of Part Two (pdf). The programme includes interviews with Swedish police on duty on 18 December 2001 who describe two US civilians from the embassy and eight other hooded US agents. The two handcuffed-Egyptian men had all their clothes cut off them until they were naked - they were then sedated, dressed in overalls, blindfolded and hooded. They were then flown in the US "Gulfstream" plane to Egypt.

The TV4 programme makers were helped by information from Ireland where the "Gulfstream" plane was noted by dedicated Irish plane spotters at Shannon Airport on 18 January 2003 (where it was no doubt on the way to another "mission"). This is described in the article below from "Village" magazine.

Shannon used as kidnap operation stop-over
by Michael McCaughan, Village magazine, Ireland (2-8 October 2004)

Dedicated Irish plane spotters picked out the small, Gulfstream jet on the runway at Shannon airport on 18 January, 2003. "It really didn't stand out," recalled Tim Hourigan, a peace activist who has closely monitored US military flights through Shannon. "It's the sort of plane used by corporate executives the world over."

The plane's touchdown was duly logged and cast into cyberspace where it helped Swedish TV4 documentary investigators tracking the kidnap and torture of two Egyptian terror suspects. The plane in question is leased exclusively to the United States government and its cargo is a cast of detainees held beyond the reach of international law.

The flight path regularly originates in North Carolina, the jet proceeds to Dallas airport where it picks up agents and continues its journey to Europe. A stop-off is made in one or more allied countries, notably Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Afghanistan, according to the Swedish investigation.

The small jet is the US executive link to a state-sponsored kidnap and torture project called "Extraordinary Rendition" approved at the highest level of the Bush administration.

The programme was first mooted inside the offices of US intelligence where the US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had grown increasingly angry and frustrated over the lack of results from interrogations in Guantanamo and other holding facilities. The goal of the operation is to seize terror suspects, hold them without time restraints and gather as much information as possible by any means necessary.

Rumsfeld had previously dismissed international concern over harsh treatment of US detainees as "isolated pockets of international hyperventilation" as the US justice department expanded the definition of torture.

And Jay S Bybee, head of the justice department's office of legal counsel, has said: "We conclude that for an act to constitute torture, it must inflict pain that is difficult to endure." Bybee then added that such pain should be equivalent in intensity "to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death".

The Israeli government redefined torture as "moderate physical pressure" but now the Bush administration stretched the concept to include pain until death and Bybee was rewarded by Bush with a nomination to become a federal judge. President Bush himself then confirmed the government's derogation from international standards of justice in February 2002, announcing a green light for the use of extreme measures: "I determine that none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan or elsewhere throughout the world."

The case of the two Egyptians tracked by Swedish investigators reveals the modus operandi of the Extraordinary Rendition project which has come to rely on Shannon airport as a safe haven in its global flight path. On 18 December, 2001 US operatives kidnapped Ahmed Agiza and Muhammed Al-Zery, Egyptian exiles who had requested asylum in Sweden. Agiza and Al-Azery, suspected Islamic militants, were forced onto a plane in Sweden despite protests by the Swedish migration board.

Under international law asylum seekers cannot be expelled to a country where they face the likelihood of torture or inhumane treatment.

A Swedish television report, "The Broken Promise" revealed that the Swedish government co-operated with the US government after assurances were given that the suspects would not be mistreated.

"Foreign masked agents have been allowed to strip, degrade and arrest suspects in Sweden," revealed the documentary. "The two prisoners had their clothes removed from their bodies with a scissors, a suppository inserted into their anus, and diapers placed on them. Their hands and feet were chained to a specially designed harness and they travelled blindfolded and hooded".

Once in detention in Egypt local interrogators fastened electrodes to the prisoner's genitals, breast nipples, tongue, ear lobes and underarms. There were doctors present to judge how much torture the prisoners could withstand. The exposed parts were anointed, so that there wouldn't be marks and scars and cold water was poured to stop blood clots. One of the suspects was sentenced to 25 years jail in Egypt while the second was released without charge.

In a recent Guardian feature the American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh uncovered the roots of this secret US terror network launched in late 2001 after president Bush signed a top-secret finding "authorising the defence department to set up a specially recruited clandestine team of special forces operatives who would defy diplomatic niceties and international law and snatch - or assassinate, if necessary - identified "high value" al-Qaeda operatives anywhere in the world".

The project belonged to what is called a "special-access programme"
co-ordinated secretly within the US defence department. Extraordinary Rendition bears more than a passing resemblance to operation Condor, the "multinational of terror" organised by six US-backed Latin American dictatorships in the 1970s.

Named after the legendary Latin American vulture this state terror programme soared above national borders as regimes swapped suspects and facilitated death squads and kidnap teams. Suspects were disappeared without a trace, held without due process and monitored by physicians during torture sessions.

In one Condor case an exiled Uruguayan senator Zelmar Michelini was kidnapped from his hotel room in central Buenos Aires, his bullet-ridden body found several days later. Soon after that another high profile political exile, the progressive former Bolivian president Juan Jose Torres, was kidnapped and killed in Argentina.

The Condor team grew so confident of its outreach capacity that Uruguayan agents planned to assassinate the former New York mayor Ed Koch after he publicly denounced the Uruguayan regime. Twenty five years later the Argentinian government formally acknowledged its role in the Condor team and paid compensation to the Torres family.

The return of constitutional rule to South American nations has permitted substantial investigation into the Condor state terror programme and the Spanish judge Balthasar Garzon has attempted to extradite alleged operatives to face justice in Spain.

The dictators of that era, notably Gen Augusto Pinochet and Gen Jorge Videla, are widely despised and cannot walk the streets of the cities where once they controlled the fate of all citizens. "This is a war of good against evil," boasted the Argentinian junta leader Videla. "This is a war for western, Christian civilisation."

The Bush administration, flouting international law, has arguably laid the groundwork for a similar state terror network. Fredrik Laurin, a Swedish journalist who worked on the "Broken Promise", a documentary following the fate of the two Egyptians, tracked the movements of the private jet which took the suspects from Sweden to Egypt, discovering that Shannon was among the stopover points.

Dozens of terror suspects have been detained in similar circumstances and taken to countries where torture is a routine instrument of police interrogation. Muhammad Saad Iqbal was seized in November 2001, taken in chains on board a civilian aircraft in Jakarta and delivered to Egyptian security forces. His fate is since unknown.

The horrific kidnapping of foreigners in Iraq, the agonising wait and the videotaped beheadings have received global media coverage and inspired widespread revulsion.

However the deafening media silence on the issue of an expanding US international terror network is a rerun of the cheerleading coverage which accompanied the invasion of Iraq.

1.Village is a new weekly news magazine:
2. See: Statewatch: Sweden - expulsions carried out by US agents
3. Full-transcript of "The broken promise - Part I", TV4, Monday 17 May 2004: Transcript (pdf)
4. Second documentary by TV4, "Broken promise - Part Two", was broadcast on 24 May 2004: Transcript of Part Two (pdf)
5. See also: Canada: Public inquiry into Maher Arar case - how about al-Rawi and al-Banna?

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